TV One Taps Lifestyles

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Reality and lifestyles programming with an African-American perspective is what’s on the drawing board at two-month-old cable service TV One, according to Lee Gaither, the network’s new executive vice president of programming and production.

The former vice president of programming and development for NBC Entertainment said he wants to capitalize on the popularity of home-improvement and lifestyle programming, like TLC’s Trading Spaces, by creating similar genre-based shows representative of the African-American experience for TV One, co-owned by Comcast Corp. and Radio One Inc.

Shows set to debut during the second quarter include: Star Jamz, a reality show that melds “old school” musical artists with upstart, contemporary performers; Get The Hookup, a dating series, and Makeover Manor, a home-remodeling series.

“African-Americans overindex in a lot of these different shows and networks, but we’re not represented as core to the properties,” Gaither said. “When I look at the growth of reality/lifestyles networks like Food [Network], Fine Living and [Home & Garden Television], that basically speak on how people live now and how they purchase items, generally there are few people of color represented.”

Gaither said TV One is not necessarily looking to build its brand to lure viewers from other African-American targeted services like Black Entertainment Television, but from mainstream broadcast and cable networks.

“It’s an emotional choice that viewers are making when they come to TV One, and it’s not a choice between TV One and BET, but one between watching Law and Order on NBC or CSI on CBS,” Gaither said. “I have to have compelling content for them to make that choice.”

While the network will rely heavily on acquired content at first, Gaither said he also plans to develop original interstitial, story-based programming to wrap around its main shows. TV One president Johnathan Rodgers said the network would eventually develop scripted dramas.

On the distribution side, the network expects to hit the 4 million sub mark later this month — with more than 80% of that total via analog carriage — through its affiliation deals with Comcast, said TV One senior vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Bernard Bell. The network is in talks with other MSOs to carry the service.

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